Unidentified object in the night sky

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carlthompson

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Hello,<br />We live in Cyprus, which offers some of the best views of the night sky in Europe. Even with the naked eye, the international space station is clearly visible every night of the year as a very large and clearly irregular object, about five times as big as anything else in the sky. At the moment it appears in the west.<br />To the south, however, I've recently noticed a new body which is very large, very bright and definitely irregular - clearly another manmade object.<br />Any ideas what it might be?<br />Many thanks for suggestions,<br />Carl<br />
 
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MeteorWayne

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The large and bright object in the South is Jupiter. It is in the constellation Scorpio.<br />Definately not man made.<br /><br />The ISS is not visible evey night of the year, since it's orbit's timing and the sun angle changes. There are periods of a week or so when it is not visible from any given location.<br /><br />For exact times and paths, see<br /> The Heavens-Above pages <br />I have entered the location as Nicosia, if you wish you can select one closer to your home from their database. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080"><em><font color="#000000">But the Krell forgot one thing John. Monsters. Monsters from the Id.</font></em> </font></p><p><font color="#000080">I really, really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function</font><font color="#000080"> </font></p> </div>
 
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carlthompson

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Many thanks for taking the time to reply - much appreciated. As you can surely tell, I'm pretty new to this game, so I'm happy to receive any pointers.
 
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MeteorWayne

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No problem<br />"The Astronomer" tries to answer all questions <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080"><em><font color="#000000">But the Krell forgot one thing John. Monsters. Monsters from the Id.</font></em> </font></p><p><font color="#000080">I really, really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function</font><font color="#000080"> </font></p> </div>
 
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brellis

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It took me awhile to get my li'l brain around the orbit of ISS: inclined to earth's poles by 50-odd degrees and going in the same direction earth revolves, but much faster. For the longest time, I just couldn't grasp why the charts on the NASA page looked like ISS kept turning like it was skiing on a slalom course. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font size="2" color="#ff0000"><em><strong>I'm a recovering optimist - things could be better.</strong></em></font> </p> </div>
 
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MeteorWayne

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When trying to visualize 3D problems with the earth, a globe is very useful. <br />I keep one in the car at all times for both helping me figure things out, and for demo purposes with others. <br />It cost about 5 bucks, and is even mounted at the proper 23 1/2 degree angle.<br /><br />Invaluable <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080"><em><font color="#000000">But the Krell forgot one thing John. Monsters. Monsters from the Id.</font></em> </font></p><p><font color="#000080">I really, really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function</font><font color="#000080"> </font></p> </div>
 
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heyscottie

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And the bright object in the West is Venus.<br /><br />Just so you know, any man-made object (except geosynchronous satellites, which generally are not visible) is going to appear to MOVE against the background stars. There are plenty you can see, and the ISS is one of the brightest.<br /><br />If you are interested, some of the best things to see are Iridium flares. You can find predictions of these on heavens-above.com. An Iridium flare can get as bright as -9 magnitude. Venus can get as bright as about -4 or so. (In magnitude, a smaller number is brighter. A magnitude of +6 is about the dimmest star that can be seen with the naked eye. A difference of 5 magnitudes is 100x difference. So an Iridium flare can get 100 times brighter than Venus.) They are only visible for a couple of seconds at a time, and you have to know when and where to look, but if a bright one is going to be visible where you are, take a look -- they are fun to watch!
 
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CalliArcale

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<blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr /><p>We live in Cyprus, which offers some of the best views of the night sky in Europe. Even with the naked eye, the international space station is clearly visible every night of the year as a very large and clearly irregular object, about five times as big as anything else in the sky. At the moment it appears in the west.<br />To the south, however, I've recently noticed a new body which is very large, very bright and definitely irregular - clearly another manmade object. <p><hr /></p></p></blockquote><br /><br />This is a little puzzling. The ISS should not appear fixed in the west. It moves fairly rapidly across the sky during a pass, taking just a few minutes to cross from horizon to horizon. (The ISS moves very fast; it completes an entire orbit of the Earth in about an hour and a half.) Most people will mistake it for an airplane. However, it is not visibly irregular unless you are observing it with a telescope -- or have extraordinarily good vision. It is very rare, but a few people (including the famed Chuck Yeager, who during WWII spotted enemy fighters long before his wingmen did) may have vision good enough to resolve it as more than a very bright point of light. However, I've never heard a report before of someone seeing it as anything other than a point with their naked eyes.<br /><br />In any case, you will see the ISS pass over head in a variety of paths, possibly more than once a night. (There will also be nights when it will not overfly you; as the orbit precesses around the Earth, it will shift to overflying primarily in daylight, when it will not likely be visible.) It will not restrict itself to one spot in the sky.<br /><br />Venus is currently an "evening star" and is probably what you have identified as the ISS. It is similarly brilliant. It is visible even during daylight if you know where to look. (For observers in Cyprus, you'll get a treat this afternoon -- it will pass behind the dark side o <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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fingle

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Re: objects appearing irregular<br /><br />For my un-aided vision all stars planets and luna are irregular. To Me stars are all like three little dots jammed very close together. The brighter planets like venus and jupiter are sort of oblong, and the moon is most interesting of all, as it always looks like there are two moons one on top of the other. this effect is very noticeable when the moon is in a very thin crescent phase. My wife thinks I should get the lasik eye surgery, but I really don't want to give up my view of the night sky.<br /><br /><img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /><br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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CalliArcale

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Do you wear eyeglasses? If not, you may want to consider seeing an optometrist. It sounds as if you have an astigmatism.<br /><br />I also have an astigmatism, though only in my left eye. I find I can observe the stars much better wearing my glasses than my contacts as a consequence. (The contacts successfully correct my myopia, but cannot correct the astigmatism.) The only downside is that the glasses are a nuisance for the telescope eyepiece. I happen to agree with you about the refractive eye surgery, though. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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carlthompson

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Many apologies for the confusion - the object to the south is indeed Jupituer, and the object that dominates the night sky here is of course Venus (Cyprus is, after all, the birthplace of Aphrodite).<br /><br />I have since managed to spot the ISS, which appears as a small but fast-moving dot high in the sky - visible without binoculars.<br /><br />As for the irregular appearance of Venus and Jupiter, I've heard this is due to astigmatism as you suggest.<br /><br />Thank you for all the posts, I've learned a lot these past few days.
 
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CalliArcale

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Hey, no apologies required, carlthompson. <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /> We all love mysteries!<br /><br />My high school physics teacher (wacky guy named Mr Cannon) had a severe astigmatism -- so bad that for years he thought the moon was oval. In fact, until he got glasses, he didn't realize what a true circle really looks like. By the time I met him, his astigmatism had gotten so bad he actually had double vision -- even with one eye closed!<br /><br />I should mention that particularly bright objects are prone to distortion not only by astigmatism but also by the Earth's atmosphere. This particularly a problem when they're near the horizon (and thus their light must pass through a lot of air).<br /><br />I'm glad you were able to see the ISS. Look for it again tonight if you can; Atlantis has just undocked, and although it's not as bright as the ISS, it should still be plenty bright for you to see with your unaided eyes. If my memory is correct, it should be trailing the ISS. In case nobody's posted it in this thread (I'm in a rush), you can use http://www.heavens-above.com to get pass predictions.<br /><br />It can be fun to watch for other spacecraft too, and not just the ISS. I haven't done any satellite-spotting in a while, but it's always kind of neat to see that little point tracking across the sky right on schedule, whether it's a manned spacecraft, a communications satellite, or even just a spent rocket stage. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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MeteorWayne

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Calli, Interesting for my location, Atlantis is projected to be brighter than the ISS (+0.8 vs +1.3, and -0.9 vs -0.4, from Heavens-Above)<br /><br />However, the ISS will be brighter than listed due to the new arrays.<br /><br />On a live interview with WCBS radio in NY, I suggested comparing the brightness to Saturn (+0.5) and Regulus (+1.4) which will be right next to the moon.<br /><br />Which is brighter, Atlantis in the front, or the ISS 15 or more seconds behind?<br /><br />How do they compare to Venus, Saturn, and Regulus?<br /><br />Weather looks bad here; if you have clear skies, look at them and tell what you saw. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080"><em><font color="#000000">But the Krell forgot one thing John. Monsters. Monsters from the Id.</font></em> </font></p><p><font color="#000080">I really, really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function</font><font color="#000080"> </font></p> </div>
 
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sally_wrench

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Hey Calli !!!<br /><br />I've been off the board for a while, but wanted to see what everyone had to say about the undocking, etc. You mentioned in this post that a new object in the southern sky is Jupiter. I'm in South Carolina, US, and I thought I've been seeing Jupiter for several weeks. Am I seeing something else? Or does this little tad of confusion grasp me due to geography? You were addressing someone in Europe. Is it only now visible there?<br /><br />Thanks,<br /><br />Sally
 
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heyscottie

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No, it's just that it's only recently started to be out in the South at a "reasonable" time, just after sunset.
 
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MeteorWayne

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Jupiter has been in the southern sky for many weeks, rising earlier each night.<br /><br />I think what she meant by new was one of two things.<br /><br />One, since Jupiter moves along the ecliptic (plane of the solar system) it is not always in the same place against the background stars.<br /><br />More important is the what part of the sky we see as the seasons change.<br /><br />Right now, in SC Jupiter rises about 7:15 PM, is highest in the south about<br />quarter after midnight and sets quarter after 5 in the morning.<br /><br />3 months ago, at the vernal equinox in March, it rose at 1:45 AM and was highest in the south at 6:45 AM. So for most people (who unlike meteor observers, don't stay up all night) they did not see Jupiter until it started rising in the evening.<br />By April 20 it rose at 11:45 PM, by May 20 about 9:30.<br /><br />So it is "new" to the casual sky observer, who tends to look before midnight.<br /><br />Meteor Wayne<br /><br /><br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080"><em><font color="#000000">But the Krell forgot one thing John. Monsters. Monsters from the Id.</font></em> </font></p><p><font color="#000080">I really, really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function</font><font color="#000080"> </font></p> </div>
 
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CalliArcale

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I just meant it was new to carlthompson; I was referencing the original post in this thread. <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /> It had been there for a while; he just hadn't seen it yet. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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CalliArcale

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<blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr /><p>Calli, Interesting for my location, Atlantis is projected to be brighter than the ISS (+0.8 vs +1.3, and -0.9 vs -0.4, from Heavens-Above) <p><hr /></p></p></blockquote><br /><br />They're predicting a similar thing for me too. (Different numbers, but also with Atlantis brighter.) I'm not sure why; I don't know what algorithm they use to predict magnitude, which is dependent on the object's reflectivity, size, orientation, and phase angle. I don't know how sophisticated their mathematical models of the ISS and Atlantis are, nor how precise the predictions really are. (What the margin for error is, in other words.)<br /><br />Intuitively, I'd expect ISS to be brighter, but it may depend on whether sunlight is glinting off of the solar arrays on ISS and the radiators inside the Shuttle's payload bay.<br /><br />You should be able to tell the difference between the two, though. Firstly because Atlantis is in the lead, but also because the ISS usually looks a bit orangish because of the gold in the big solar arrays, whereas the Orbiter is white. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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sally_wrench

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Well, OK, then ... thanks to all y'all for your replies. I do tend to stay up really late at night looking up. My bathroom window looks out due south ... so most of what I see is there. <br /><br />Something else I wanted to know, and I guess you can tell me, Meteor Wayne, is what kind of "gear" I need to count meteors. I'd like to do this in August during the Pleides (spelling???) meteor shower, and it seems like I saw something you wrote in one of those bizillion posts in this forum. One thing I recall you mentioning was your "recorder." Is that a video recorder? Are you capturing the meteors on video tape? Or were you referring to an audio recorder so you can vocally indicate each time you see one, and then go back and count them?<br /><br />Tell me everything, please ... I can't wait 'til August !!!<br /><br />Thanks soooooooo much !!!<br /><br />Sally
 
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MeteorWayne

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Sally,<br />It's the Perseids in August.<br />I use a voice recorder to keep that data on what I see.<br /><br />You can do some with video, but without an image intensifier, only the brightest meteors would be captured, your eyes can see many times more.<br /><br />To learn about meteor observing for the beginner ( at recording data) I recommend checking out the North American Meteor Network.<br /><br />http://www.namnmeteors.org/<br /><br />Wayne <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080"><em><font color="#000000">But the Krell forgot one thing John. Monsters. Monsters from the Id.</font></em> </font></p><p><font color="#000080">I really, really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function</font><font color="#000080"> </font></p> </div>
 
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CalliArcale

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<blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr /><p>Which is brighter, Atlantis in the front, or the ISS 15 or more seconds behind?<br /><br />How do they compare to Venus, Saturn, and Regulus?<br /><br />Weather looks bad here; if you have clear skies, look at them and tell what you saw. <p><hr /></p></p></blockquote><br /><br />I'm online briefly before heading to bed. I just saw them. <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /> That was sweet; it was the first time I've managed to catch 'em both together. To my surprise, Heavens Above was accurate -- Atlantis was noticeably brighter than the ISS. My guess is that it has something to do with phase angle on reflective surface; the ISS will have its arrays facing the Sun, but the Shuttle will have its radiators facing Earth. I could not detect much difference in color, but conditions were not ideal; we're experiencing scattered thunderstorms here, and they were passing between storm clouds. (The storm clouds themselves were putting on quite a spectacular sight!) Atlantis was close to Jupiter in brightness. However, I couldn't bear to watch very closely as they passed by Jupiter; the mosquitoes had located me and started buzzing in my ears. (I hate that.)<br /><br />It was still sweet, though, and well worth any bites. <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /> I just wish I'd had the forethought to get the camera ready. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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fingle

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Hi Calli,<br /> Yep astigmatism. I only need my corrective lenses for reading. My vision for distance is quite good, even with the slight double up effect. I guess we get use to things like that after living with it all our lives. At the telescope the problem is not noticable, I guess because I only use one eye at a time. And my binoculars are of the type that have the plus minus adjustements for each eye, so no problem there either. <br /><br /> A couple of years ago my daughter got her first pair of contacts to correct her nearsightedness. That first night was the only time in all of her twenty-one years that I ever heard wonderment and joy in her voice about seeing the stars. She saw for the first time that the Pleiades was a group of stars and not just a jumbled smudge in the sky. Alas, her interst didn't last much past that night as music the internet and boys are what interest her the most. <img src="/images/icons/frown.gif" /><br /><br />c'est la vie<br /><img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /><br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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heyscottie

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sally:<br /><br />Yep -- the best equipment for watching meteors is a reclining lawn chair. Or a blanket.<br /><br />There's a scene in "Contact" (generally a very good movie) where Elly & her dad are about to watch a meteor shower. They've got two telescopes set up on the deck. "Dad! It's beginning!" shouts Elly, as she peers through her scope. I guess most people who watch the movie wouldn't notice how ridiculous that is...
 
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